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George lives to help others ? But don't come to her with your problems, please

She's worked in food service at four national parks west — of the Mississippi River, taken care of her wheelchair-bound mother and — dealt with the life-long repercussions, including severe vision problems, — resulting from an accident when she was four years old.

Last week, the 43-year-old New Jersey native finished — a 10-year journey at two schools when she graduated from Southern Oregon — University with a degree in human communications. Now she's looking for — a job where she can help the homeless find jobs and get their lives together. —

"I'm so happy," said George "I got a minor in psychology — too, but don't come to me with your problems, please."

George is kidding, a bit.

"Vicki has a wonderful sense of humor," said John Fitton, — the associate director of student support services at SOU, who Vicki enjoys — referring to as "Robert." "We've shared jokes in almost every meeting — we've had."

She says she may change her name to Egypt Alexandrea, — knows how to play "Uno" in Polish and thinks murderers should be spared — the death penalty and made slaves to the families of their victims instead. — Smokers rank high on her list of irritations, but she's come up with a — way to retaliate.

"At any time while I'm walking across campus, people have — seen me singing outloud like a crazy person," George said, laughing as — she explained how the large headphones she wears when she's walking or — biking inspire the "second-hand singing" people notice. "I hope my singing — is bothering them as much as their smoking is bothering me."

"She's quite the character," said SOU geology professor — Eric Dittmer. "I see her and I've just got to smile. I think she's great."

Her jokes and strong opinions give levity to the obstacles — George has overcome to be self-sufficient and graduate from college.

"When people stare at me, I used to get all crazy," George — said, explaining that people's looks would hurt her feelings. "Now I say, — 'You want to stare at me something? Stare at my armpit!' and they do. — They all do."

George was four years old and crossing the street back — in New Jersey when a motorcycle hit her. She flew 55 feet in the air and — the impact of the landing caused a severe head injury. a twist of fate — she did not suffer serious brain damage, but the accident did affect her — vision. She has to hold her head back to see out of her left eye, the — good one, and wears glasses all of the time.

George bikes everywhere because her limited vision doesn't — allow her to drive a car. In New Jersey when she attended Mercer County — Junior College, George biked 10 miles each way to class because the public — bus system was too expensive. When she and her mother moved to Medford — in 1999, she attended classes at the SOU Medford campus because it was — close to home. Once she started taking courses in Ashland, she would bike — to the bus, take RVTD to Ashland and then bike around campus.

"We would always worry about her hitting something on — her bicycle," said Dittmer, who taught George Geology. "The only way she — could see was to tilt her head back, she didn't have a helmet and wore — headphones instead. She couldn't see and she couldn't hear."

Her luck on the bike hasn't been too bad. She's been hit — by motorists four times, though she admits one incident was her own fault. — The only serious accident happened when a woman opened a car door into — George and broke her right pointer finger. She had a tough time in class — for six weeks and now that she lives in Ashland doesn't need to bike as — much, but she still rides the mountain bike.

"I can't imagine people who don't," said George, who is — particularly proud of the custom seat she got for her bike. "I think most — people have big asses. Those seats they give you, they're pretty small."

She's not sure where she will ride her bike next. George — has applied for government jobs around the country because she feels like — she has several good programs for the homeless she could implement, given — the resources and the control.

"I feel better about myself when I'm able to help other — people," George said. "I want to help the people who have a full load — of kids and they're living in their cars. They're struggling."

She just has to find the right place to do it, wherever — that takes her.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 — x 3019 or jsquires@dailytidings.com.